Murder by Misadventure
Talisman Theatre, Kenilworth
There’s a definite element of the ‘how-dunnit’ to this fun exploration of the world of murder mysteries and their writers. We’re rarely in doubt about who’s doing what, it’s a case of trying to pin down the how.
A luxury flat complete with electronic gadgetry, abundant bottles on the sideboard and an enticing sea-view balcony plays host to a series of dastardly plans and nasty surprises that are occasionally more like right angle sidesteps than twists.
In a nod to a frequent fault of many a murder mystery, this play eschews the introduction of extraneous characters. Even the woman whose romantic machinations and possible demise drives the plot here is never seen as the action is shared by four people only.
And four very good performances they are too. Des McCann and Alan Wales as the writing partnership hitting a more than rocky phase are nicely balanced. The former has a nice line in cheerful affability before trying to cope with rapid challenges as the twists mount; the latter builds a pleasingly comic veneer of drunken lassitude which masks an altogether more purposeful intent.
As the loyal wife and steadying presence Ruth MacCallum treads a dependable, common sense path, but little in this play turns out exactly as you’d expect.
Christopher Stanford’s police inspector wavers adroitly between cliched sharp detective and bumbling country copper. It’s a part well-played, in more ways than one.
Dave Crossfield’s direction puts the emphasis on keeping it light and on providing the clarity needed with so much exposition to be covered. John Ellam’s design has some lovely detail and comes into its own with a late starring moment best kept under wraps.
With so heavy a load of plotting, counter-plotting, revelation and misdirection to be borne, it’s no wonder that the pace occasionally falls below the briskness you’d wish. But the twists, of which there are a seemingly unending procession, are all handled well and the ending is a genuine delight.
The locked room murder is certainly not a new theatrical subject, nor is the deviousness of the minds that conspire to write such narrative intricacies. But there is easily enough in this solidly-presented concoction to keep the audience entertained and guessing.